The quest for teacher identity: a qualitative study of professional identity construction of novice English teachers in Algeria

PhD Thesis

Djoudir, L. 2019. The quest for teacher identity: a qualitative study of professional identity construction of novice English teachers in Algeria. PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University School of Language Studies and Applied Linguistics
AuthorsDjoudir, L.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy

This thesis examines the process of professional identity among EFL (English as a Foreign Language) novice teachers in the Algerian context. More specifically, it aims to identify the factors which constitute professional identity such as personal histories and the practicum. It also considers the role of the communities of practice as well as the various struggles and challenges that novice teachers face during their journey of becoming (Danielewicz, 2001). A sociocultural theoretical lens incorporating communities of practice as well positioning theory lens employing discursive positionality are used as a theoretical framework for this thesis.

A broad qualitative study approach is employed and 14 participants from various middle and secondary schools were recruited. The participants are 9 first year teachers (7 females and 2 males) and 5 second year female teachers. Second year teachers’ stories and experiences were also elicited in order to offer variations in the understanding of professional identity when compared to novice teachers in their first year of teaching. The data was conducted over 12 weeks and included interviews as the main data tool accompanied with NQTs' (Newly Qualified Teachers) written reflections and researcher's journal. Three semi-structured interviews were conducted with first-year teachers and one semi-structured interview with second-year participants.

This research has developed a theoretical framework for understanding professional identity which refines and develops previous frameworks found in the literature such as those of Mockler (2011), Wenger (1998) and Lave and Wenger (1991). In other words, the findings of this study revealed that the quest for professional identity is complex and it involves negotiation of meaning between imagined, practiced and future identities. This is to say that, it was found in the data that novice teachers constructed imagined identities through their identification with their sociocultural background including family, society and former teachers, prior to joining the profession. These imagined identities formed their 'core identity' as teachers. Novice teachers' personal experiences helped them in developing a positive and resilient professional identity. By relying on these experiences novice teachers became aware of their professional growth and showed a high sense of agency in their teaching. The findings further demonstrated some ways to revisiting Wenger’s notion of Communities of Practice in the light of some of the context-specific aspects of the findings of the study, in particular, those relating to gender, ethnicity and membership of broader communities outside the school. This research also revealed that novice teachers' sense of belonging to the teachers' community was an important marker of their professional identities. The emotional support that novice teachers' received from their colleagues as well as their engagement within and beyond their school communities impacted positively on their professional growth. Issues of recognition from administration and students was also found to have an impact in their professional growth.

This study provided valuable theoretical implications for broadening the concept of the COP to consider the various cultural practices that operate within different professional contexts. In addition to that, practical implications of the teaching education programmes and institutional assistance are presented. Mentors and principals should provide novice teachers' with support and guidance during their teaching to help them shape a positive sense of professional identity.

KeywordsProfessional identity; EFL; novice teachers; sociocultural background
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Deposited04 Mar 2020
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